Dr Gina Riley, Ph.D. is an educational psychologist, clinical professor and program leader of the Adolescent Special Education Program at CUNY Hunter College in New York.
She has over fifteen years experience working with teenagers diagnosed with learning disabilities and emotional/behavioural disorders. She is also a seasoned academic, with years of teaching, research and supervisory experience within the fields of special education, psychology, school psychology and mental health counselling. She is known internationally for her work in the fields of home education (home schooling and unschooling) and self-directed education.
Dr Riley has also written a new academic book entitled, ‘Unschooling: Exploring Learning Beyond the Classroom’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).
Initially, I came into the field through intrinsic motivation/self-determination. I unschooled my own child from birth – 12th grade. His first day of school was his first day of college.
At the time I was unschooling, I was a single parent also working and going to school.
Many times, unschooling looked like my child attending work or school with me (thank goodness for evening classes and distance education). Other days, we would play, or go to museums, parks, libraries, or the farmer’s market. We spent lots of time outdoors. If I had a busy school or work day, I would be sure to “fill” my son’s cup before I filled mine. This meant giving him my focused attention for a couple of hours before I knew I would become distracted with school work or classes. As he got older, we would do “work” together. He also started getting more interested in guitar at this time – so he would practice while I would work or write.
I think there are so many myths/misconceptions people have about unschooling. The most common question I used to get is “how does your child learn if he doesn’t go to school?”. People generally equate schooling with learning, and that is a huge myth. Kids learn all the time.
I have researched homeschooling, unschooling, alternative learning environments, intrinsic motivation, Self Determination Theory and Cognitive Evaluation Theory for over 20 years.
Gosh – so many! A summary of my research is here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gina-Riley-2/research
I will say that unschooling is the best example of the application of intrinsic motivation in education, as unschooling is all about students’ utilizing their own interests and strengths.
Examples of Gina Riley’s Research (which you can access via the link above):
Unschooling: Exploring Learning Beyond the Classroom is the first academic, research-based book on unschooling. It’s exciting, as never before has all the academic research thus far on unschooling been published in one place. (I love that early career academics have been emailing me saying that it has been helpful to their thesis and dissertation writing!) The book can also be used as an academic textbook on self-directed learning.
It’s a complicated question – more complicated than anyone thinks. So many have amazing educational innovations and ideas. However, they are difficult to scale within large school districts.
I love the notion of the IEP (individualized education plan) for students with special needs when it is implemented correctly. I wish every student could have an IEP.
There is so much research on progressive approaches to education. It’s important to be familiar with that research.
You can follow Dr Riley on Twitter at https://twitter.com/professorgriley